The Hay Bale by Priscilla Bettis #bookreview #ghosts #shortread #TuesdayBookBlog

Contemporary Southern Gothic meets weird horror in this new novelette from Priscilla Bettis.

Professor Claire Davenport yearns to be a mother. After suffering four miscarriages, the university microbiologist tries and fails to qualify as an adoptive mother. Then Claire’s husband leaves.

Alone and emotionally wounded, Claire takes a summer sabbatical from her microbiology classes and escapes to rural Virginia to heal. There, she meets local farmers with strange agricultural practices.

Claire moves into the historic manor house she rented for the summer, and an abandoned child greets her. Is the child real, an answer to her prayers? Or is he a figment of her tormented emotions? Perhaps the tight-knit locals are playing a trick on the science lady from the city.

Whatever the boy’s origin, Claire is determined to find the truth, but the truth may be bloody.

I’ve been anxiously anticipating this novelette after reading the description on the author’s blog. Southern Gothic, weird horror, and a historic manor house? Everything about that calls out to the horror fan in me.

What’s so scary about a hay bale you ask? Plenty. To microbiologist Claire, it can be a breeding ground for fungus and disease. It may also hide something else. Reeling after suffering four miscarriages, failing to qualify as an adoptive mother, and separating from her husband, Claire takes a step back from her life and rents a house in a small town for the summer where she can begin to heal. That small town is filled with odd people, and she soon learns disturbing information about her new home. And that’s on top of the fact that it also seems to be inhabited by the ghost of a young boy.

Atmospheric, unsettling, and full of creepy imagery (I felt some Midsommar vibes), this horror novelette can be easily read in an hour and will stick with you long after finishing. I’m anxious to see what this author does next.

No Such Luck by Staci Troilo #shortstory #romance #Christmas #TuesdayBookBlog

Seeds of luck usually wither. The rare one grows and blooms.

Piper Seidel has one thing going for her—a red carnation given to her by Tommy Burnett in the tenth grade. It might have dried over the years, but it’s still her good luck charm. Losing it sets her life in a downward spiral, forcing her to return to her hometown where she comes face to face with her high school crush.

The years have been kind to Tommy, who looks better than ever. Unfortunately, Piper is at her worst, continually embarrassing herself whenever he’s around. The only plus? Her long-time friend, Jack Rhodes, still lives in town. Since she last saw him, his legs have grown longer, his biceps thicker, and his shoulders broader. He was always the brother she never had, but now she can’t help noticing him in an unsisterly way. Jack is every bit as caring as he’s ever been—until her bad luck drives him away, maybe forever.

Piper needs a new good luck charm, and fast, before she loses her final chance at happiness.

I’d seen several excerpts of this story during the author’s blog tour, and when I found myself with a free hour, I dove into this novella.

Poor Piper. Her Christmas vacation begins early when she loses her job and decides to go ahead and make the trip to her father’s house. Her day doesn’t get any better when she runs into her high school crush at the grocery store – and then learns she wasn’t exactly looking her best at the time. Things take a turn for the better when her long-time friend Jack shows up and takes her to drown her sorrows in beer and pizza.

I chuckled over situations Piper finds herself in and then wanted to bop her over the head to make her come to her senses and see what was right in front of her. Of course she has to learn the hard way that sometimes things we build up in our mind can have very different realities. This is a heart-warming, sweet romance (and I love that it’s set during Christmas) with fully-fleshed characters that can easily be read in an hour. I recommend grabbing a blanket and a cup of hot chocolate and settling in with this feel-good tale.

#BadMoonRising Reaper (A Horror Novella) by Jonathan Pongratz #horror #paranormal

This author describes his ideal readers as those who love chills and thrills. Having read this novella, I guarantee it’s filled with both, along with scary escapades and vivid imagery. And it features a basement. Tell me that doesn’t scream horror. The second book in this series released in February of this year, and it’s waiting (still – so many books!) on my Kindle. Maybe he’s inspired by the shadow figures he’s met face to face. Welcome Jonathan Pongratz!

Which urban legend scares you most?

Lately it’s been Cryptids (aka Bigfoot). There’s something terrifying about the urban legends that something unknown has been sharing this world with us the entire time, waiting in the hidden pockets we typically ignore. My reading of Harlan Graves’s short stories on them probably doesn’t help!

My mother recently told me of a time where she saw a cryptid a couple years back and it just made the fear all the more real.

What’s your favorite season of American Horror Story?

Either Coven or Apocalypse. I can’t resist the mystifying allure of witches since the days of Charmed, and I love all the great characters and their amazing powers! Can I join the coven? Please? I promise I won’t try to end the world. *fingers crossed behind back*

Do you ever see figures in your peripheral vision?

All the time. The hardest thing to figure out is if it’s actually shadow people or just a trick of the light. I’ve seen them face to face a number of times and it’s terrifying. Maybe they’re just passing through and don’t want to mess with me … yet.

How do you celebrate when you finish writing a book?

A huge party with all of my supportive friends and copious amounts of alcohol. Maybe not so much on the alcohol these days, but life’s too short to not share your successes with those you care about.

How would you describe your book’s ideal reader?

Anyone who loves chills and thrills. Regardless of what genre I experiment with, my novels will always have a dark edge to them. It’s something I feel is necessary and is a trademark of mine.

What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on an LGBT Horror novel called The Ruins. In a nutshell, a travelling video blogger and his boyfriend get more than they bargained for when they unwittingly unearth an ancient malicious evil on a trip to Peru. Expect plenty of suspense and paranormal mayhem!

How do you fight a monster?

Halloween night, 1992. Promised the allowance he’s always dreamed of, Gregory has to babysit his little sister Imogen and hand out candy.

That was before the basement door opened on its own. Before the strange door appeared in the basement. Before Imogen was taken from him by that terrifying monster.

Now, Gregory has to scramble to put the pieces together before it’s too late. Where did the door come from? What was that creature? Can he save his sister, or is she already gone forever?

Purchase Links

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07P9FCQT8

Kobo   https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/reaper-a-horror-novella

B&N Nook     https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/reaper-jonathan-pongratz/1130732747

Apple Books  https://books.apple.com/us/book/id1550231114

Author Bio and Social Media

Jonathan Pongratz is a writer and author of captivating horror, fantasy, and other speculative fiction stories. When he’s not writing, he’s busy being a bookworm, video game junkie, and karaoke vocalist. A former resident of Dallas, he currently resides in Kansas City with his Halloween cat Ajax. By day he works magic in finance, by night he creates dark and mesmerizing worlds.

Website: www.jonathanpongratz.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/jonathanpongratz

GoodReads: www.goodreads.com/jonathanpongratz

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/jonathan-pongratz

Tumblr: https://jonathanpongratz.tumblr.com/

Songwriter Night by D.G. Driver #bookreview #musical #countrymusic #RBRT

In this sweet romantic novella, Lyle and Trish are two aspiring Country music songwriters that meet at a Nashville coffee house. With Trish being new in town, Lyle invites her to his monthly gathering of songwriters to get to know her better. The evening of quirky characters and light-hearted singing is interrupted by the arrival Aiden Bronson. He’s got a hit song on the radio, and he’s back to show off, stirring up some rivalry while he’s at it. How will Lyle compete against Aiden’s charisma and talent in order to win Trish’s heart?

I’ve never come across anything quite like this, and it’s a cool concept. I read the Kindle version of this book, but there’s also an audiobook which includes not just the story, but also twelve original songs. In the Kindle book the song lyrics are written, but if you’re a country music lover, you may prefer the audiobook version.

If you want to break into the music industry, lots of folks follow their dreams to Nashville, and that’s exactly what the two MCs in this novella are hoping to do. They meet in a coffee house where Trish immediately catches the eye of Lyle. He invites her to a songwriter night he and his roommate host monthly. Being new in town and wanting to meet people, Trish immediately accepts. Much of the story takes place on that evening when we meet several other characters – some of them very animated (George and Tammy especially). When Lyle’s former roommate, who’s recently experienced some success with his music, shows up, Lyle’s hopes for the evening quickly go off the rails.

Being familiar with Nashville, I enjoyed the references to local places, highways, and sections of the city. I’m not a country music fan, but I appreciated the song lyrics and how they add to the story. Trish and Lyle, each a little awkward and unsure, have an adorable meet cute and are very likeable and relatable. This was a novella, but I’d love to see what happens to these characters in the future and hope the author considers expanding on the story.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Rosie’s Book Review Team.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

A House at the Bottom of a Lake by Josh Malerman #bookreview #magicalrealism #TuesdayBookBlog

Both seventeen. Both afraid. But both saying yes.

It sounded like the perfect first date: canoeing across a chain of lakes, sandwiches and beer in the cooler. But teenagers Amelia and James discover something below the water’s surface that changes their lives forever.

It’s got two stories.

It’s got a garden.

And the front door is open.

It’s a house at the bottom of a lake.

For the teens, there is only one rule: no questions. And yet, how could a place so spectacular come with no price tag? While the duo plays house beneath the waves, one reality remains:

Just because a house is empty, doesn’t mean nobody’s home.

When I requested this from NetGalley, I didn’t realize it was originally released in 2016. Reading reviews from that time, it looks like this novella was categorized as horror – which is absolutely isn’t. On Amazon, it’s now listed as coming of age and magical realism, which are much more appropriate descriptions.

Can I just say how cool this cover is? The eerie colors and perspective of the boat above the house just draw you in, and it helped me visualize the house as James and Amelia explored it underwater.

I’ve read three other books by this author and enjoyed them all, especially Bird Box. While I liked both of these teen characters and was riveted by their growing obsession with the house and their discoveries, I had to shove my disbelief out of the way several times to continue on with the story. Their first exploration of the house is done by holding their breath, but they quickly realize that’s not possible if they want to get through all of it. Then they bring an old diving suit which requires an air compressor. With only one suit, each of them takes a turn and also helps the other change in and out of it. Keep in mind all of this happens in a canoe – which is apparently large enough to hold hundreds of feet of hose and a heavy air compressor and is miraculously stable enough to never capsize. James and Amelia then decide to become certified divers, something I’ve never done, but I’d think requires more than a handful of days.

Once I pushed all that aside, I enjoyed this tale, which at times is eerie, claustrophobic, and even heartwarming, but it’s not my favorite by Malerman. For me, the ending is a thing of beauty and not what I’d expected.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Conscience by Jonathan Pongratz #novella #scifi

Rory Bennels lives in a world ruled by a business entity known as the Corporation. For years he’s executed cerebral uploads for the recently deceased, but when the famed anarchist Epher Lore ends up in his lab, a series of events occur that shakes Rory’s world to the core.

I’ve been a science fiction fan since before I hit double digits in age, and I read across the board in the genre.  As a fan of this author’s horror novella, I was immediately interested in checking out his venture into sci-fi.

Cerebral upload isn’t a new concept to me, but the author puts a different spin on it.  What happens when the upload is from a wanted anarchist who has repeatedly eluded authorities and is accidentally transferred into a robot?

Rory is a follow-the-rules type of guy who’s just keeping his head down and doing his job, but then everything he believes about his world changes almost in the blink of an eye.  He’s forced to make a quick decision that will forever alter his life, and you’ll cheer him on until the last page.

Although this is a quick story, the author does a wonderful job with character development, and there’s plenty of action to go along with it.  If you’re a sci-fi/dystopian fan, I highly recommend this novella.  I’d be interested in seeing what happens next to these characters.

I was an early reader of this novella and received a complimentary copy from the author.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

In Search of McDoogal by Mae Clair #bookreview #shortread #humor

In search of something ugly…

All Brady Conrad wants to do is earn a few merit points with his artist girlfriend, so he volunteers to cover her gallery when she leaves town. What should be an easy day of sales goes belly up when he mistakenly sells a cherished painting.

With the clock ticking toward Vanessa’s return, Brady has less than a day to track McDoogal down. He coerces his friend Declan to tag along for moral support. How difficult can it be for an investigator and the director of a renowned institute to find a single painting in a town the size of a postage stamp?

Neither Brady nor Declan counted on a suspicious sheriff, rival baseball teams with a longstanding grudge, or a clueless kid trying to win his girlfriend with all the wrong gifts.

McDoogal is smack in the middle. But Brady’s biggest dilemma isn’t the disastrous hunt. It’s confessing to Vanessa her painting is the ugliest thing he’s ever seen. 

I’ve read several Mae Clair books now, but this short read is a departure from her supernatural suspense reads.  And boy, was it fun.

Poor Brady.  He’s trying to win the girl, but accidentally sells her beloved painting.  After a stroke of good luck tracking it down, he thinks retrieving it won’t be quite as difficult as he’d thought – guess again.  He and his friend hit one obstacle after another, and from the varying opinions on exactly what kind of animal is featured on this canvas (rat, hamster, cat, etc.), I had fun imagining what this “cherished painting” looked like.  Brady’s and Declan’s entertaining banter had me chuckling, as well as a certain Freddie Mercury-worshipping character.  As a cat lover, I especially enjoyed learning about the real McDoogal in the author’s note at the end.

If you’re looking for a humorous, light-hearted, quick read, In Search of McDoogal checks all those boxes.

Reaper: A Horror Novella by Jonathan Pongratz FREE Today! #FreeBook #horror

I don’t usually post on Sunday, but today I’ve got a fantastic reason to – and I promise you’ll benefit from it.  An author friend of mine, Jonathan Pongratz, is offering Reaper: A Horror Novella FREE today!  I read it back in the winter, and if you’re a fan of dark basements and vivid imagery that may send chills down your spine, this book is for you.  Get it FREE today and you’ll have time to read it before the sequel is released – which I can’t wait to get my hands on!

Gregory and his little sister Imogen love spending Halloween with their parents. But this year is different. If he proves he can take care of Imogen all by himself, he’ll finally have the allowance he’s dreamed of.

That was before the basement door opened on its own. Before the strange door appeared in the basement and Imogen was taken from him by the monster.

Now everyone in town is blaming him for her disappearance, but no one is listening to his story. Where did the door come from? What was that creature? And most of all, can he find his sister before it’s too late, or will he bury his memories of her along with his parents?

Purchase Link  Amazon 

Excerpt:

Call me a scaredy cat all you want, but there was always something about the basement that I didn’t like. It always made me feel like I was being watched, like there was some

thing in the shadows just waiting for me to make a wrong move. Even now, the frigid air crept over me, creating more goosebumps on my arms and legs. I quickened my strides up the stairs, Imogen dragging behind.

We were halfway up the stairs when the knocks stopped. For a moment, I stopped my climb. The house was eerily quiet, and for reasons I can’t explain I felt a sudden urge to hurry back upstairs. I charged forward, trying to pull Immy along with me, but she resisted.

“Too fast!” she whined.

“If you hurry, we can play dress up sooner, now come on!” I yanked on Immy’s arm, practically lifting her into the air. Seven steps. Just seven more steps and we could look back on this night and laugh it off. Seven, six, five. Almost there.

I was just three steps away from the door when I leaped for the landing. I’ll never forget that jump. Time seemed to stand still, as if those cold icy fingers in the air had somehow found a way to slow time down. I remember that I had a smile on my face, a smile that disappeared when the door slammed shut in my face.

 

Social Media: 

The Tomato Quest (Chasing the Romantics #2) by D.G. Driver #bookreview #fairytale #TuesdayBookBlog

Dash and Lillian are in love, but her wealthy father won’t permit them to be married because Dash is not a suitable match. He is nothing but the son of the family’s gardener. To be rid of the young man, Lillian’s father claims that the only way Dash could ever earn Lillian’s hand in marriage is to find his fortune in the time it takes a basket of fresh tomatoes to rot. Naturally, Sir Barrymore isn’t serious about this challenge, but Dash sees it as his only chance to win the hand of the woman he loves. He leaves immediately on a quest to find a way to complete this impossible task. Meanwhile, Lillian is doing her best to make her parents postpone her engagement to someone else in order to give Dash time to return. It is a whirlwind fairy tale adventure full of danger, cunning, magic, true love, and tomatoes.

Although I’ve never been a huge fairy tale fan, I’ve enjoyed the original stories in this series.  The Tomato Quest can be easily read in an hour or so, and I finished it in an afternoon over Christmas.  It’s a sweet tale containing star-crossed lovers who are determined to be together despite the objections of their parents and the expectations of society.  After being handed a near impossible challenge, Dash doesn’t have a clear-cut plan for success.  He encounters one roadblock after another, yet he shoulders on, and you have to admire his tenacity.  In the beginning, I wasn’t completely convinced Lillian was all in, but she proved me wrong.  Her actions in defying her parents gave me some chuckles.

If you’re a fairy tale fan or a fan of sweet romances, I recommend giving this series a try.  I somehow missed this novella when it was first published, and the author was gracious enough to provide me a copy for review.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Reaper: A Horror Novella by Jonathan Pongratz #bookreview #horror

Gregory and his little sister Imogen love spending Halloween with their parents. But this year is different. If he proves he can take care of Imogen all by himself, he’ll finally have the allowance he’s dreamed of.

That was before the basement door opened on its own. Before the strange door appeared in the basement and Imogen was taken from him by the monster.

Now everyone in town is blaming him for her disappearance, but no one is listening to his story. Where did the door come from? What was that creature? And most of all, can he find his sister before it’s too late, or will he bury his memories of her along with his parents?

I love a good horror story.  And that’s exacty what I found in Pongratz’s novella.

Everyone knows basements are bad news in horror books and movies.  You just want to yell at the characters to steer clear.  But if they didn’t go into the basement/attic/check on the noise outside, you’d miss out on all the scary escapades, and where’s the fun in that?  Reaper most definitely offers those scary escapades coupled with vivid imagery that may send chills down your spine.

The sibling relationship between Gregory and Imogen is done well and very believable – sweet and loving at times, and then exasperating when she teases her brother.  After the trauma of losing his sister, I liked how Greg didn’t accept the situation and give up on her, instead, beginning his own investigation and facing his fears.

The ending leaves the possibility open for another book, and I hope the author continues this story.  I’d love to know what happens next.  If you’re looking for a quick, eerie read, Reaper is a perfect book to curl up with.  And if you’re feeling brave, read it at night when you’re home alone.